It’s Uncanny How Many X-Men Games There Have Been (1985-1997)

X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

Recently, I plummeted down the rabbit hole of chronicling every Spider-Man video game that ever existed. Compiling that list satisfied my curiosity for a little while, but curiosity is a persistent little rascal. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m back at it. This time, I’m looking at the history of The X-Men games. Once again, I am surprised by just how many games there have been, and astonished by the few that didn’t make it.

Although the X-Men have appeared in non-X-Men games over the years (like Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems), if they weren’t the main protagonists, they didn’t make the cut for this particular list.

So without further ado, cue the theme song from XMen: The Animated Series, and let’s go!

Questprobe featuring The X-Men (1985) – We begin our journey with the cancelled Questprobe featuring The X-Men. If you read my article on Spider-Man games, you might recall that Questprobe was a sort of interactive comic series. The fourth planned game was set to feature the X-Men, but it was cancelled when developer Adventure International went belly up. Not an auspicious start to our list.

X-Men: Madness in Murderworld (1989) – The video-game career of the X-Men would officially kick off in May of 1989 with the release of X-Men: Madness in Murderworld for Commodore 64, MS-DOS, and Amiga. Developed and published by Paragon Software (the same company that developed The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom’s Revenge!), Murderworld is a side-scrolling action game set in the titular Murderworld amusement park. Professor X has been kidnapped by Magneto, that scoundrel, and the gang has to get him back.

How the word Murderworld passed inspection back in 1989 is beyond me, but it does make for a pretty cool title. I’m not so sure it’s a place I would want to visit, but hey, to each their own.

The Uncanny X-Men (NES)

The Uncanny X-Men (1989) – In December of the same year came the aptly titled The Uncanny X-Men for the NES. Featuring Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Wolverine, The Uncanny X-Men was a top-down brawler that tasked two players (or one player with an A.I. sidekick) with fighting through five levels, using each character’s abilities to overcome specific obstacles.

Published by LJN, its last game before being sold to Acclaim Entertainment, The Uncanny X-Men was also mysteriously developed by an undisclosed external developer (retro gaming sleuths suspect either Bothtec or Pixel). While ghost development wasn’t unheard of back in the 1980s, the developer of this one might have preferred to lurk in the shadows due to the abysmal end result — the game is widely considered a mess.

X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (1990)

X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (1990) – Paragon Software would develop and publish a sequel to Madness in Murderworld, 1990’s X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants for MS-DOS. The game follows the comic book storyline “Fall of the Mutants,” though it’s officially set in a parallel “What if?” universe. The game is much like a classic RPG in nature, with exploration segments in a top-down overworld that transition into side-view sections for combat. It actually looks a bit like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and it seems to be remembered favorably.

Wolverine (1991) – It wouldn’t take long for everybody’s favorite Canadian mustelid to get his own standalone game with 1991’s Wolverine. Developed by Software Creations and published by LJN for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Wolverine would be remembered as rather difficult game that wasn’t incredibly faithful to the source material.

X-Men (1992) – The following year would see the release of what is widely considered to be one of the best — if not the best — X-Men video games of all time. Konami’s X-Men (X-Men the Arcade Game to some) is a classic side-scrolling, beat-em’-up, quarter-eating arcade machine. X-Men featured the iconic characters Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and um… Dazzler.

It was a smash hit. In Japan, it was both the third-most-successful table arcade unit and the seventh-most-successful upright arcade unit of 1992. It was later ported to the PS3 and Xbox 360 virtual stores by Backbone Entertainment in December of 2010, only to be delisted from both storefronts at the end of 2013. X-Men also received a mobile release in 2011.

Spider-Man X-Men Arcade's Revenge

Spider-Man and and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (1992) – Like Wolverine, Spider-Man and and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge was developed by Software Creations. Unlike Wolverine, however, this one got a multi-console release. LJN was publisher on the Super NES, with Flying Edge for the Sega Genesis. Another game set in everyone’s favorite amusement park, Murderworld, Arcade’s Revenge tasks players with controlling different characters through their own dedicated levels until finally fighting Arcade as Spider-Man to save the gang. It would later receive ported versions on the Game Boy in 1993 (published by LJN) and Game Gear in 1994 (published by Flying Edge). I also covered this game in my complete list of Spider-Man games.

X-Men (1993) – Produced by Sega solely for the Genesis, X-Men has players picking up the mantle of Gambit, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Cyclops as they fight to eliminate a virus that’s mucking up the danger room. IGN added the game to their 2011 list of Fifteen Really, Really, Really Hard Games.

X-Men (1994) – Sega would follow up the release of its 1993 game X-Men with the 1994 release of, well… X-Men. Same name, different game. Also, different platform, since X-Men (not to be confused with X-Men for Genesis or the X-Men arcade game) was a Game Gear exclusive. Mostly positively reviewed, it tasks players with the time-tested goals of rescuing captured team members and ultimately vanquishing Magneto and his nefarious cohorts.

Wolverine: Adamantium Rage

Wolverine: Adamantium Rage (1994) – There were two versions of Wolverine: Adamantium Rage that released in 1994 (incidentally, the same month that X-Men released for Game Gear, coming out in January). The Genesis version was developed by Teeny Weeny games (hehe, Weeny) and published by Acclaim, while the Super NES version was developed by Bits Studios and published by LJN. There were several differences between versions, including stage layouts and visual style (the SNES version being the more colorful of the two, as you might have guessed), but ultimately the story played out roughly the same. The Super NES version seems to have fared slightly better than the Genesis version among critics.

X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (1994) Also released in 1994, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was another side-scrolling beat-’em-up action game (clearly not an uncommon genre mash-up for superhero games in the 1990s). This one, however, was both developed and published by Japanese juggernaut Capcom.

Mutant Apocalypse focused on five mutants chosen by Xavier to rescue teammates who were imprisoned in the Genosha island complex. Similar to many of Capcom’s NES games (such as Mega Man and DuckTales), players could tackle stages in their preferred order. It also sported character design that many would say is reminiscent of Capcom’s mega-popular Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.

Of course, Capcom would put out an X-Men arcade game that was much closer to Street Fighter II than Mutant Apocalypse was. And that brings us to…

X-Men: Children of Atom

X-Men: Children of Atom (1994) In December of 1994, Capcom’s X-Men: Children of Atom landed in Japanese arcades (it would end up in the United States and Europe in 1995). Children of Atom is a straight-up fighting game, with some of the voice actors from the 90’s animated series reprising their roles here — a nice touch indeed. This would be the beginning of a partnership between Marvel and Capcom that would last for decades, as Children of the Atom would lead to X-Men vs. Street Fighter (more on that later), which would eventually lead to the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

Children of the Atom was ported to Sega Saturn in 1995 (in Japan) and 1996 (U.S. and Europe). A later version, developed by Probe Entertainment, released for PC in 1997 and Sony PlayStation in 1998.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s jump back to 1995, which was Sega’s year for X-Men video games.

X-Men: Gamesmaster’s Legacy (1995) – February of 1995 would see the release of the Game Gear title X-Men: Gamesmaster’s Legacy, a sequel to the 1994 Game Gear game X-Men (not to be confused with 1993’s X-Men). Loosely based on the “Upstarts” and “X-Cutioner’s Song” comic book storylines, it features the Legacy Virus as a central plot device. This one starts off with Storm and Cyclops as playable characters, with other X-Men (such as Wolverine, Jean Gray, and Cable) unlocking later.

X-Men 2: Clone Wars

X-Men 2: Clone Wars (1995) – In May came the sequel to 1993’s X-Men (not to be confused with 1994’s X-Men), X-Men 2: Clone Wars for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Developed by Headgames, Clone Wars was another so-so beat-’em-up. There was a third entry planned for this series, X-Women: The Sinister Virus, but it never launched.

X-Women: The Sinister Virus (1996) – Developed by Clockwork Tortoise, X-Women: The Sinister Virus was probably doomed from the get-go. Clockwork Tortoise had only ever successfully completed the Genesis and Sega CD versions of The Adventures of Batman & Robin before shutting down for good. As the title implies, X-Women: The Sinister Virus would have focused on an all-female roster of Mutants. It was originally slated for a 1996 release on the Sega Genesis, with an early playable version appearing at E3 1996. However, it was pushed back to 1997 and ultimately cancelled.

X-Men vs. Street Fighter (1996) – Capcom would return to the X-Men franchise after the success of Children of Atom with the arcade fighter X-Men vs. Street Fighter. This is actually the third Capcom-Marvel fighting game, releasing after Marvel Super Heroes (which came out toward the end of 1995). Since Marvel Super Heroes features a greater Marvel roster and isn’t focused solely on the X-Men (it does include Wolverine, Psylocke, and Magneto as playable characters), I didn’t give it an official spot on the list. It is worth mentioning, however, as it’s the link between Children of the Atom and X-Men vs. Street Fighter.

X-Men vs. Street Fighter would get something of a slow start in North American arcades, but it eventually caught on. It apparently holds a Guinness World Record as the first fighting game to feature tag-team fighting, a much-lauded and later a much-employed feature of the fighting game genre.

The game was ported to Sega Saturn in 1997 and Sony PlayStation in 1998.

X-Men: Mojo World (1996) – Far less notable than X-Men vs. Street Fighter (and holder of fewer Guinness World Records) is X-Men: Mojo World for the Game Gear (and Sega Master System in Brazil via Tec Toy). It was yet another Sega-produced beat-’em-up that was built in the same game engine as 1995’s X-Men: Gamesmaster’s Legacy.

X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse

X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse (1997) – Released in November of 1997, X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse was the sole X-Men game of that year (unless you count home console ports of Capcom’s arcade games). Developed by Zero Gravity Entertainment and published by WizardWorks (based in Minneapolis, MN), The Ravages of Apocalypse would be the last X-Men game released before the Y2K apocalypse scare. It would also serve as the X-Men’s entry into the first-person shooter genre.

A PC-only release, The Ravages of Apocalypse was built using the Quake engine and actually required the original version of Quake to be played. So technically this is a Quake conversion mod, but Zero Gravity Entertainment did get the blessing of Marvel to use the X-Men license.

If you want to follow this list into the 21st Century, hop on over to Retrovolve sister site Half-Glass Gaming.

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